Identifying the evidence-base for art-based practices and their potential benefit for mental health recovery: A critical review Academic Article uri icon


  • PURPOSE: Art-based practices show promise as a beneficial solution for mental health services because they are in line with the whole person recovery framework currently being adopted, and have high acceptability with consumers. Nevertheless, incorporation of art-based approaches into mental health services has been impeded by claims of an insufficient evidence-base and ongoing debates about the most suitable research practices. This article addresses this gap in the literature by critically reviewing current research on the benefits of art-based practices in mental health rehabilitation settings. METHOD: A critical review of previous research was conducted identifying all quantitative, qualitative and mixed method studies that addressed art making and adult mental illness. Then a deductive/theoretical thematic analysis was conducted using Lal's framework for conceptualising mental health recovery. RESULTS: The identified areas where art-based practices were of key benefit included psychological and social recovery, particularly in the areas of self-discovery, self-expression, relationships and social identity. These findings in conjunction with the identified benefits to clinical, occupational and contextual recovery indicate that art-based practices play a substantial role in mental health recovery. To add weight to these claims, future research endeavours need to integrate the suggested recommendations detailed in this review. CONCLUSION: Recommendations are made to improve the quality of future research, including the need for well-designed mixed-method studies that integrate qualitative and quantitative research, whilst keeping in mind the values of mental heath recovery, would further validate this current evidence-base.

publication date

  • 2013